Marriage to a spouse battling addiction can be heartbreaking. Unfortunately, an estimated 25 million Americans endure this ill-fated situation as they watch someone they love ruin their own life. Addiction to drugs, alcohol or some other harmful behavior like gambling can turn their life upside-down. It can also affect every part of a family’s life, including finances, employment, marriage, and relationships with children and other family members.
The downside is so great that a spouse of an addict will often do everything in their power to “manage” the addict to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children and perhaps themselves. But the burden of earning a steady income, maintaining the home and trying to control an out-of-control addict often proves to be too much.
Get them the help they need
The first order of business is trying to get the addict the professional help they need. This generally means help from licensed professionals. While the addict is getting the support they need, the children and spouse may also need to speak with family counselors to better understand the harmful impact of living with an addict. The counseling may need to continue after treatment to help the family rebuild.
Leaving them may be necessary
First off, it has nothing to do with love. It may be necessary to leave the addict if they are unwilling to get help or are unable to stay clean. This especially crucial if they endanger the health and wellbeing of the children, you or even themselves. It may even be necessary to file a restraining order.
When divorce is the best option
Whether the spouse refuses to get help or their actions irreparably damaged the marriage before they recovered, the spouse of an addict may need to file for divorce. When drafting the divorce agreement, it is essential to consider these issues and others specific to your situation:
- Custody: Typically, parents would share custody, but custody or visitation should be contingent on their ability to be a safe and stable influence.
- Visitation: Visitation may be supervised, perhaps by a neutral third party.
- Treatment: The spouse may regain visitation rights after a specific period if they successfully go through treatment.
- Testing: Confirm claims of sobriety with regular testing if they wish to see the children.
- Relapses: Some addicts relapse, so there should be something addressing this potential issue.
- Approval: You should have final approval over all proposed activities.
- Check-ins: You can stipulate that they must check-in when the kids are with them.
- Consequences: There should be consequences if they violate some part of the agreement.
The children are the priority
While it may seem unfair or extreme, the above concerns protect the children and family members. As the addict proves to be a reliable and loving presence, you can modify the parenting plan.